Cool In The Digital Space

Article Posted: 12.12.2017
AHC Editorial Team

“Shiny Happy People” is the provocative motto for Hong Kong’s Ovolo Hotels and this encapsulates a new disruptive “always on” integrated digital approach to entice travellers – particularly millennials – to be pleased with services they receive in Ovolo hotels, including across the Asian region.
Increasingly, hotels have to be “cool” for new generation travellers globally and regionally. These guests expect – rather than hope – to have reliable, accessible and convenient online facilities. At a time when digital in-room services, mixed business and holiday options, fast delivery of creative and efficient operations – and even robotics – are required hotel features, the digital space is a key sector for development. This includes direct services, products, marketing and back office integration more than ever before.
Additionally, hotels are being forced to evaluate technical advances in security (such as keyless rooms), energy conservation, infrastructure as well as mobile data and IT ubiquity. Essentially, all hotels these days need to be both high tech and “digital boutique” to attract younger patrons.
Ovolo Hotels, established in 2002, is an IT “success story”, running five hotels and one serviced apartment complex in Hong Kong with another three hotels in Australia, with others planned in that country and across Asia over the next few years.
The Ovolo Hotels lifestyle approach is to offer “effortless living” for its largely youthful guests. It boasts cutting edge en suite technology such as city wide complimentary WiFi and invitation to local industry network events, Apple TV which can connect with personal devices, in room iPads and international adaptors connecting people with their locations.
As to marketing and communications, Ovolo’s radiovolo app curates a playlist of music through the Spotify, Tidal and Google Play Music channels while its MOJO NOMAD initiative aims at encouraging entrepreneurs with discounted rates through co-worker spaces, such as at Ovolo Southside in Hong Kong’s upcoming Wong Chuk Hang district. Its Silver Egg blog “The Ovolution of OMG” articles online provide city happenings across the world for its guests. 
Ovolo is not afraid to experiment: last September in the wake of the global smash hit Pokémon Go augmented reality smartphone game, its Southside property undertook a six-week campaign (including a free night’s stay) for the first 20 guests who “caught” 50 Pokémon, resulting in increased demand from Hong Kong visitors.
Worth mentioning also is the disrupter effect of non digital “norms”, as Ovolo offers daily breakfasts, all-day snacks and in room mini bar facilities free as part of its daily rates. The overall approach is to re-define the concept of hotel stays, and that delves down to modern aesthetics such as décor featuring exposed brickwork, steel furniture as well as artworks, graffiti and even kung fu movies playing in lifts. An adventurous approach also plays well to online sites like TripAdvisor where a good review is ever more likely to attract new guests.

Related Article: Beyond the traditional way of innovating in the hospitality industry
Marriott International’s up and coming brand Aloft Hotels is also rolling out properties, particularly on the Chinese mainland, that aim to combine business with leisure. Hence, Aloft features high speed Internet access and fast and free WiFi in all guest rooms and keeps its guests up to date with amenities and activities through its #Aloft social media network.
The Aloft chain has been developing tech-centric beverage and snack concepts, most notably by experimenting with its Botlr three-foot-tall robot that can dispense items to rooms and can avoid obstacles using 3D mapping technology. There is also the prospect of introducing key-less entry in Aloft properties, voice-activated amenities in rooms and digital virtual reality experiences in fitness studios in the pipeline.
Such innovations could see Aloft Hotels becoming particularly popular among young executives on the Chinese mainland at its properties such as Beijing Haidian, Dongguan Dynamic Town (which is situated near several high tech parks) as well as in new venues like its two hotels to open in Shanghai in 2017 and 2018 and its two Chengdu properties in 2019.
More business-focused hotels could see a revolution in the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) sector, with the May 2017 opening of Aloft Perth in Australia: this property is positioned as a new benchmark for meetings and incentive travel with 550 sq m of meeting space along with state-of-the-art, audio-visual technology as well as the fast-becoming-ubiquitous free WiFi.

hotel technology

As well as with direct services, technology is making its presence felt in interior décor and mood. For example, Spain’s Vibia has come up with a new type of lighting that aims to create a vibrant, constantly changing “mood” for rooms using algorithmically operated suspended globes anchored to the ceiling by a tubular floating structure. Hotels are also redefining lobby seating to make them more comfortable and easier to re-deploy, as lobbies fill and empty of their guests.
Sales provide another key area for digital improvement with the aim of making services more convenient and efficient for guests as well as streamlining and centralizing back office operations. The Reverie Saigon property that opened in 2015 recently announced its new point of sale network delivered from UK-based Xn protel Systems covering all its outlets to compliment its elite guest service.
The Windsor Property Management Group’s innovative system actually preceded The Reverie’s opening, being 10 years in planning.  Its 150 points of sale terminals allow staff to enter kitchen and bar orders, print bills and assist in serving guests. The technology is multi-lingual and integrated, combining guest-facing options and back-end administrative processes. Soon, the hotel expects to roll out a mobile version of the system, essentially completing the “all on, all the time” approach to modern hospitality.
The more traditional luxury sector recognizes the need to respond quickly. The likes of Four Seasons and Resorts and Conrad Hotels and Resorts and related Hilton Group are investing in push technology and apps that put hotels in touch with each other and track guest requirements across properties. Conrad introduced a smartphone key in mid 2016 that eliminates the need for physical keys at its establishments. Mandarin Oriental Group is investing in better online features that appeal to guests, including better IT connectivity and easier check-in and selection of rooms and facilities.
In short, the hotel sector’s future is inextricably linked with the quick march of digital innovation.
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